In the early days of the internet, most access was accomplished via a modem over an analog telephone line. A modem was connected to the incoming phone line and then connected to a computer. Speeds were measured in bits-per-second (bps), with speeds growing from 1200 bps to 56,000 bps over the years. Connection to the Internet via modems is called dial-up access. As the web became more interactive, dial-up hindered usage when users wanted to transfer more and more data. As a point of reference, downloading a typical 3.5 MB song would take 24 minutes at 1200 bps and 2 minutes at 28,800 bps.
High speed internet speeds, by definition, are a minimum of 256,000 bps, though most connections today are much faster, measured in millions of bits per second (megabits or Mbps) or even billions (gigabits). For the home user, a high speed connection is usually accomplished via the cable television lines or phone lines using a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL). Both cable and DSL have similar prices and speeds, though price and speed can vary in local communities. Telecommunications companies provide T1 and T3 lines for greater bandwidth and reliability. Long-haul cables, those that carry lots of data over long distances, are usually fiber-optic lines—glass lined cables that transmit light. Light is faster and travels farther distances than electricity, but fiber-optic networking equipment is more expensive than the copper-electricity kind.
How Does My Internet Speed Compare?
So how does your own Internet speed compare? There are many online tools you can use to determine the speed at which you are connected. One of the most trusted sites is speedtest.net, where you can test both your download and upload speeds. The following chart shows how Internet speeds compare in different countries. You can find the full list of countries by going to The Countries with the Fastest Internet site.
High speed access, also known as broadband, is important because it impacts how the internet is used. Communities with high speed internet have found residences and businesses increase usage of digital resources. Access to high speed internet is now considered a basic human right by the United Nations, as declared in their 2011 statement:
“Broadband technologies are fundamentally transforming the way we live,” the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, set up in 2017 by the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the UN International Telecommunications Union (ITU), said in issuing “The Broadband Challenge” at a leadership summit in Geneva.
“It is vital that no one be excluded from the new global knowledge societies we are building. We believe that communication is not just a human need – it is a right.”
- International Telecommunications Union. (2018, January 23). UN Broadband Commission sets goal broadband targets to bring online the world’s 3.8 billion not connected to the Internet. https://www.itu.int/en/mediacentre/Pages/2018-PR01.aspx↵ ↵